For millions of people in the world, having something potentially pilfered in the post ranks very, very low on their list of concerns. It is what is called a first-world problem.
I’ve never been a massive fan of first-world, second-world, and third-world designations.
The First World consisted of the U.S., Western Europe and their allies. The Second World was the so-called Communist Bloc: the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and friends. The remaining nations, which aligned with neither group, were assigned to the Third World.
I had no idea that these terms were coined in 1952 by French demographer Alfred Sauvy who wrote of “Three worlds, one planet” in an article for the L’Observateur.
I’m not fond of the developing/developed pairing either.
But back to the post office. And my problem.
Not that it’s a problem as such. More an observation.
In Ireland, over Christmas, I spotted these big boxes of Tayto crisps. Eighteen to a box. I know someone in Hungary who is an avid Tayto-er so I thought I’d wrap the box in brown paper, tape it up securely, and bung it in the post, knowing I’d be paying more than three times the value in stamps.
Before I did that though, I spotted a Galaxy selection box. I’m a big Galaxy fan, so I carefully slit the tape on the Tayto box, put in the chocolate and then retaped and wrapped and taped it again. There was as much industrial-strength tape as there was paper.
Some four weeks later, the box arrived.
My friend was delighted with the crisps but made no mention of the chocolate. Because the chocolate wasn’t there! All 18 bags of crisps were accounted for but there was no sign of the chocolate. The box was busted in and sealed in a clear plastic bag, the usual PO procedure when something is damaged in transit.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a selection box – it’s about the size of an average laptop keyboard and usually contains 8 different bars of chocolate. It’s not something that falls out of a box unnoticed (but to be fair, if it had fallen out unnoticed then perhaps it got separated from the box and the finder didn’t know where to put it back).
No matter. I was steaming.
I had wrapped that box and taped it to within an inch of its life.
I tried to think back to see if I’d had to describe the contents but as it was within the EU I doubt it. Likewise, I wouldn’t have had to put a value on it. I knew from a conversation in the village PO to always lowball the value as high-priced items are more attractive to potential pilferers (the person in question is still waiting for an expensive pair of prescription glasses). But a bloody selection box?
I hadn’t insured it. As I said, the postage was three times the value of the contents and while for stuff coming in from outside the EU, I have to pay VAT on the postage, insurance covers the contents only.
I had no case. No point in complaining. Where would I start?
Could it be that someone, presumably in employment, was desperate enough to bust the box deliberately or help themselves to the contents when the damage was already done? Could things be that bad?
Sadly, the answer is yes.
Having a job today is no guarantee that you can afford a €5 selection box. And yes, I know there are those reading this who have never known what it’s like to count pennies, to have to root down the back of the sofa in the hope of finding a 50p piece, or to feel that overwhelming sense of relief when you put on a coat you haven’t worn in ages and find a pound in the pocket. I’m happy for you. But please, don’t discount the reality of so many because you can’t relate to it. And in these times of soaring prices and rampant inflation, when suggesting a night out or choosing a restaurant, spare a thought for friends who might not be in your income bracket.
But back to my package.
If someone really needed the chocolate, I don’t begrudge it. If someone though decided to take it simply because they could, I hope they never tell the story in my presence.
That said, it could be sitting in the corner of a warehouse somewhere having been spirited away by a colony of ants. I’ll never know.
Well, at least the Tayto made it. And for that I’m grateful.